Monthly Tonic - Issue 10
As we examine retail in a social context, we start to understand the powerful and positive role it plays in today's society that goes way beyond shopping.
As we welcome sunshine here in London, it feels so good to be able to now visit stores and have some face to face conversations with the retail community. However, it’s not until some things are taken away that we begin to truly understand their importance in our daily lives and how much they are missed.
The absence of face to face retail this last year is a great example. Below are some articles that we have been sharing in the studio, which have prompted some great discussions around how retail influences society.
Retail is often a microcosm of
So much of our society is embedded and represented in retail. Retail centres are often an economic and social melting pot that is representative of a broader place or culture. An article by New York based publication Curbed is well worth reading. It conveys this through the lens of New York City. The article discusses the relationship between the city and its shopping malls, describing how they are cultural centres for exploration, yet also places that draw people to the surrounding city areas.
Physical retail as a place to meet
The Campaign to End Loneliness highlights many statistics that demonstrate how destructive loneliness can be within society. As AgeUk highlight, the impact of this has swelled enormously since the start of the pandemic. Much of this results from the closure of stores. Retail is often, especially amongst elder groups in society, the only social touchpoint people have throughout the week. This initiative introduced by supermarket Morrisons here in the UK recognises this problem. A slow lane welcomes customers needing to take more time or wanting a more social experience with the cashiers.
The impact of a Sport-less (and Retail-less) Society
With the re-scheduled 2020 European football tournament just around the corner, it’s a great reminder of the impact that the absence of sport has had on society. In her article titled 'The Human Impact of a Sport-less Society', Emma Calow identifies that 52% of people who are used to engaging with sport felt lonely and isolated once it had been stopped during lockdown.
Whether through participation or simply as a spectator, the shared and social nature of sport carries a significant influence on society and how it functions. The same can be said for retail. The absence of retail this last year has shone a light on just how deeply embedded it is in society and how much reliance people have upon it.
Retail staff can be custodians of critical social issues
We have previously written about how store staff are a brand’s most important ambassadors. Any social cause a retailer stands for must be embodied by the staff on the shop floor. This Business of Fashion article forecasts growth in retail employment as retail rebounds from a difficult year. This is the perfect time to redefine the role of retail staff in our society to play active roles in critical issues.
Retailers have a huge impact as employers
We have already seen that retail employment can benefit a local community, but who retailers employ can have much broader social benefits. Last year Starbucks opened its first ‘inclusive design’ store. This brief article from Indian publication Retail4Growth describes how the store provides job opportunities and collaborates with disabled communities. At the same time, British retailer Timpson has been actively employing ex-prisoners as part of an initiative to give people a second chance. A great initiative that helps break the cycle of crime and poverty in society. The Guardian journalist Sarah Butler detailed a personal story that highlights the impact that these employment schemes can have.
Retail employers can have a huge impact on society just by caring for their workforce. A recent Retail Gazette article discusses how several British retailers are actively considering the wellbeing and mental health of their staff. The issue of mental health among retail staff is more important now than ever. Lewis Catchpole's Retail Sector article discusses a recent study by retailTrust that reveals the fall in retail staff’s wellbeing compared with other industries. Given the rise in mental health problems plaguing society, retailers prioritising this issue could have an incredibly positive impact.
I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to discuss further.
In Quinine's ‘Monthly Tonic' newsletter, we share the key articles,reports and research studies that are driving the conversations we are having here in the studio. Each newsletter is based around a single theme that extends beyond retail to explore broader social and cultural influences shaping the changing world around us. We share a range of insights, perspectives and points of view that are positively impacting the direction we are heading and the discussions we are having with our clients. The following newsletter was shared with all our friends, clients and Quinine community members. If you would like to receive our next issue, please sign up here!
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